UNWTO opens call for Best Tourism Villages 2023


The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has opened applications for the third edition of its Best Tourism Villages initiative. UNWTO's Members States can present up to eight villages through their National Tourism Administrations. Applications will close on 23 June 2023 and the winners will be announced towards the end of the year.

Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO was launched in 2021 as part of the Organization's work to make tourism a driver of rural development and well-being. To date, over 70 villages from almost 40 countries have been recognized as Best Tourism Villages. A further 40 have been selected to participate in the Upgrade Programme where they benefit from expert mentorship and networking opportunities.

As with previous editions, the initiative has three components. The Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO recognizes outstanding examples of rural tourism destinations with cultural and natural assets that preserve and promote rural and community-based values, products and lifestyle and have a clear committed to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects. Selection is based on an evaluation of their resources and initiatives in nine areas covering the three pillars of sustainable development, economic, social and environmental. The Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO Upgrade Programme benefits a number of villages among those that do not fully meet the criteria to obtain the recognition. These villages receive support from UNWTO and partners to address the gaps identified in the evaluation process. The third component, the Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO Network, provides a space for exchanging experiences and good practices and opportunities. It includes representatives of the villages recognized as Best Tourism Village by UNWTO as well as the villages participating in the Upgrade Programme, and it will benefit from the contributions of experts, public and private sector partners engaged in the promotion of tourism for rural development. The Network also contributes to the work of UNWTO in identifying good practices, developing guidelines and policy recommendations as well as insights and knowledge.

The applications are evaluated by an independent International Advisory Board consisting of experts in different fields (cultural and natural resources preservation, sustainability, tourism product development, marketing, value chain, etc.) based on nine areas, including sustainability, infrastructure, connectivity, and tourism value chain integration.

Announcing the launch, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, "Tourism can make a real difference for rural communities, delivering jobs, supporting businesses and celebrating and protecting traditions. Through Best Tourism Villages, UNWTO is recognizing those rural destinations that committed to making tourism a pillar of opportunity and well-being."

Mountain tourism

Mountain tourism, if managed sustainably, has the potential to boost the incomes of local communities and help preserve their natural resources and culture. However, a lack of data and knowledge on the subject is preventing them from fully seizing such opportunities.

A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNWTO and the Mountain Partnership (MP) seeks to address such gaps in order to reach a better understanding of the subject. The publication also identifies trends and provides a set of recommendations to advance the measurement of mountain tourism, including progress on official tourism statistics and the use of big data and new technologies.

Tourism has proved to be a lifeline for many communities in mountain regions and can play a leading role in protecting livelihoods adapted to these fragile ecosystems, which face continuous threats from climate change and overexploitation. As the sector recovers from the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an opportunity to rethink mountain tourism and its impact on natural resources and livelihoods, but also to manage it better and to harness its contribution towards a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable future.

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Photo: ©Susheel Kumar Shrestha

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